When I was little, my Mum used to bake these date cookies. They were, and are, a real favourite – soft, chewy-crumbly and almost cakey, studded with chunks of toffee-ish dates. Delicious!
A few years ago, I was reminiscing about these cookies, and decided to bake some for Rosh Hashana – the Jewish new year – as dates are one of many symbolic foods for the festival. I asked my Mum for her recipe and was devastated to learn that she had lost it! Her trusty recipe notebook, filled in by hand over years of cooking, had vanished without a trace. Ever the fatalist, she had taken this loss in her stride, but I was gutted. I set about trying to recreate the date cookies from scratch, borrowing bits of recipes left, right and centre. I ate a lot of sub-standard date cookies.
Then, joy of joys! The notebook reappeared! The first thing I did was to copy out the date cookie recipe, and the second thing I did was to make a batch. They didn’t disappoint. I was transported back to my Mum’s kitchen, and could imagine myself as a child again, the taste was so evocative. Mmm.
So, when I saw that the theme for this months Treat Petite baking challenge was childhood memories, I knew what I had to make.
Meanwhile, I’d received an email, (and subsequently a jiffy bag of spices!), from a man called Steven, who has recently launched the Speculaas Spice Company, to bring his Dutch family’s secret speculaas spice mix to an unsuspecting British public. The mixture contains cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and six other spices, and is traditionally used in the preparation of speculaas biscuits, which are a favourite snack of Dutch children.
Reading about Steven’s family recipe for speculaas biscuits, and his childhood memories of eating them, reminded me of my nostalgia for the date cookies of my youth. So, in a moment of wild abandon, I decided to add the speculaas spice mix to my date cookie mixture, instead of the usual vanilla.
And the results? Delicious! The familiar soft texture was unchanged, but the spices added a subtle warmth that went very well with the dates. One of my tasters ‘complained’ that she needed a mug of tea and a roaring fire to go with her date cookies, which seemed a bit unlikely for June, and to be fair, these kinds of gingerbread spices are probably more common in the UK in the winter months. But then, they eat them in the Caribbean year round, and it’s pretty hot there. So make them whenever you like 🙂
This made 34 speculaas spiced date cookies.
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Speculaas spiced date cookies
- 155 g margarine or butter (2/3 cup)
- 100 g light muscovado sugar (1/2 cup + 1 tbsp)
- 1 egg
- 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp speculaas spice mix
- 255 g self-raising flour (2 cups + 2 tbsp)
- 200 g chopped stoned dates (1 cup + 2 tbsp)
Preheat the oven to 165C (330F). Line at least one baking sheet with parchment.
Cream the margarine and sugar till fluffy. Add the egg, bicarb and spice and mix well.
Add about a third of the flour, and a third of the dates, and mix well. Add another third of each, and mix. Add the final third of the flour and dates, and combine everything thoroughly to give a stiff dough.
Allow the dough to stand for 5-10 minutes to firm up slightly.
Take walnut-sized blobs of the dough, roll into balls, and flatten into discs. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 165C (330F) for around 10 minutes until golden. They will spread slightly in the oven, so leave some space between them.
Allow to cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the 'traditional' recipe date cookies, omit the speculaas spice mix and add half a teaspoon of vanilla essence instead.
Per cookie: 90 calories, 4g fat, 1g protein, 13g carbs